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Bank gets bonus in moving operations.

An innovative exchange of branch locations, conceived by Wm. A. White/Grubb & Ellis, has enabled Queens County Savings Bank, a strong and well-rated New York City institution, to gain an unexpected bonus following its takeover of a neighborhood branch of the failed American Savings Bank.

In a transaction just signed, Queens County will move into a former Manufacturers Hanover branch in Astoria, a block away from the former American Savings branch which it had earlier acquired. Instead of occupying the American Savings branch, Queens County will gain significant income from a $6 million lease with The Gap.

The Queens bank's experience reflects the challenge facing a growing number of institutions as mergers and consolidations continue. How to most effectively manage acquired bank properties? What to do with under-performing retail branches? Branch closings and conversion of bank properties to other uses may provide the best solution. But, this route often presents its own set of problems.

In 1992, American Savings Bank, then in its final months, attempted 'to reduce operating losses by closing branch operations in a large facility in the Astoria neighborhood of Queens, New York, and selling the deposits to a neighborhood bank. They would then lease that building, a handsome, contemporary structure on Steinway Street, to a third party.

What made the branch closing particularly attractive was that Wm. A. White/Grubb & Ellis had located a well-rated tenant, The Gap, to lease the building.

As part of the lease, all costs of converting the building to meet the requirements of the retailer would be borne by The Gap.

American Savings Bank sought and gained approval for the transaction from the appropriate government agencies.

With the lease signed and government approval in hand, American Savings posted signs in the branch windows notifying the public that it was closing the branch.

But, within weeks the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation stepped in and took over the faltering American Savings, canceling both the lease transaction and the deposit sale.

The FDIC sold the branch and its modest deposits to Queens County Savings Bank, which immediately opened branch operations in the facility.

But, Gottlieb who teamed with Glenn Markman, of Wm. A. White/Grubb & Ellis, believed strongly that with the growing acceptance of electronic banking and the particular needs of the neighborhood, "the highest and best use" of the large space involved was a Gap Kids store. Further supporting the Wm. A. White/Grubb & Ellis position was the outstanding performance of a nearby Gap store that featured adult apparel.

The space was larger than a contemporary savings bank branch required, Gottlieb said.

A detailed search of the neighborhood located a Manufacturers Hanover branch with an expiring lease within a block of the Queens County branch. AS expected, following the earlier merger with Chemical Bank, the MHT branch was soon to be vacated and operations moved to a nearby Chemical Bank branch.

While the MHT branch was too small to meet the needs of The Gap, it would provide an efficient branch banking facility.
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Title Annotation:Queens County Savings Bank takes over branch of American Savings Bank in Astoria, New York and leases space to The Gap
Publication:Real Estate Weekly
Date:Jun 23, 1993
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